Cartha Queens Park 12, Selkirk 12

Cartha snatch victory from Selkirk with final kick of drama-packed contest

ON TARGET. Selkirk centre David Cassidy successfully kicks his team's fourth penalty in Saturday's tense Premier 2 game against Cartha Queens Park at Dumbreck Road. (Picture: Grant Kinghorn)

WITH five minutes of injury time played, and the Cartha Queens Park team pinned inside its own half, it looked as though Selkirk's heroic display at Dumbreck Road on Saturday would be rewarded with the visitors' first ever victory at the ground.

However, a moment's indiscretion at the final ruck of the afternoon resulted in a penalty being awarded to the home side, allowing Cartha stand-off Ruaridh Jackson to thump over a perfectly judged goal-kick from the halfway line, earning the Glasgow club a draw with the very last play of the day.

Not for the first time this season, the Souters had paid a high price for indiscipline in their ranks. No fewer than three players - Michael McVie, Neil Darling and Scott Hendrie - were shown yellow cards in the second half, bringing to eight the number of sin-binnings the Selkirk team has suffered in the past six matches.

On two occasions crucial penalties were reversed in the home side's favour, wiping out the visitors' hard-won momentum at a stroke, and allowing their opponents time to regroup and re-take the initiative.

Even so there was much to admire in Selkirk's spirited display, not least the manner in which their defensive line coped with Cartha's bigger and more physical players (five of whom were members of the Glasgow Warriors' back-up squad which defeated Border Reivers 34-12 at Netherdale last week).

Visiting skipper Darren Hoggan gave an inspired lead throughout the 80 minutes, whether carrying the ball or marshalling his troops in defence. Indeed every single member of Selkirk's pack stood toe-to-toe with his opposite number in a match where the intensity of the forward exchanges rarely dipped below boiling point.

Behind the scrum no-one epitomised Selkirk's never-say-die spirit better than inside centre Alistair Lyall. Despite being floored by a dangerously high tackle after 33 minutes, and twice having to leave the pitch for attention to a nasty cut above his left eye, the young threequarter never once shirked a tackle or baulked at taking the ball into contact.

Playing with the strong wind at their backs in the first half, Selkirk had a chance to open their account in the second minute, but David Cassidy's long-distance penalty bounced back off the post (a feat he had already managed on two successive occasions in the warm-up period before kick-off).

Moments later the same player made amends when he converted a similar award, following a cleverly engineered break by Lee Jones, who had found ready support in the shape of Alan McDowall and Michal Adamczewski.

A massive kick to the corner took Selkirk straight back to Cartha's 22, but unfortunately the referee was struck by the ball as the visitors pressed hard for a score on the left flank, and the home team eventually managed to clear the danger.

After 18 minutes Rob Taylor retired to the sidelines for the remainder of the afternoon after injuring himself while making a tackle, his front row berth going to Martin Murray, with Gordon Patterson coming on in place of McDowall.

A knock-on by Cassidy in his own in-goal area gave Cartha the perfect platform for an assault on the visitors' line, but Selkirk's pack somehow managed to deny the city men at a succession of scrums and line-outs, Gavin Craig eventually breaking the stranglehold with a jinking run out of defence.

A high tackle on Lyall then allowed Cassidy to kick his second penalty to put Selkirk 6-0 ahead, only for the visitors to immediately transgress and give Jackson a similar pot at goal. The fly-half's kick drifted wide, and just before the interval a third successful penalty from the boot of Cassidy allowed Selkirk to go into the halftime break 9-0 up.

Selkirk started the second period in textbook fashion - Denver Rumney securing possession at the kick-off, with Alister Heatlie then driving upfield before Cassidy's low kick into the wind took the Souters deep into enemy territory. However, a ruck infringement moments later allowed Jackson to reduce the deficit to 9-3 from a penalty.

After 56 minutes Michael McVie was yellow-carded for over-vigorous rucking (this after a penalty had already been awarded to Selkirk), and six minutes later Neil Darling also ended up in the sin bin after a clumsy challenge on Cartha's line-out jumper. Jackson exacted retribution with a second penalty, cutting Selkirk's lead to three points.

Down to 13 men, the visitors refused to be cowed and raised their game to new levels of effort and commitment, their reward coming when Cassidy calmly kicked his fourth penalty, this time against the wind, to put his side 12-6 in front.

No sooner had Neil Darling returned to the fray than Scott Hendrie found himself the victim of what appeared a harsh yellow-carding, and the visitors once again had their backs to the wall.

A try-saving tackle by replacement Ross Nixon was quickly followed by Jackson's third successful penalty, setting the stage for an almost unbearably tense final eight minutes, in which Selkirk fought tooth and nail to keep Cartha's juggernaut pack at pay.

Just when it looked as though the visitors' battle-weary troops had courageously repulsed Cartha's marauding pack - Neil Darling having led a quite stupendous 30-metre driving maul from Selkirk's 22 right up to the halfway line - referee Gary Gordon penalised the visitors at the last ruck of the day, and Jackson kept his nerve to salvage two points for his mightily relieved team-mates.

It goes without saying Selkirk will be hoping for better fortune against Jed-Forest at Philiphaugh this weekend.

SELKIRK - G. Blair, S. Hendrie, D. Cassidy, A. Lyall, L. Jones, G. Craig, M. McVie, R. Taylor, D. Hoggan, A. McDowall, M. Adamczewski, R. Aglen, N. Darling, D. Rumney, A. Heatlie. Replacements - J. Duncan, M. Murray, G. Patterson, R. Nixon.

Referee - G. Gordon (Hillfoots).

CLOSE ENCOUNTER. Selkirk number eight Alister Heatlie prepares to pick up the ball in Saturday's hard-fought Premier 2 match against Cartha Queens Park at Dumbreck Road. (Picture: Grant Kinghorn)